SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Giants are one of the worst offensive teams in the Major Leagues. That’s not news to anyone, much less manager Bruce Bochy.
Ranked No. 28 in runs scored, runs per game and home runs per game, and No. 29 in batting average (.227), San Francisco is looking to find some spark. On Tuesday against the Colorado Rockies, that’ll be Brandon Belt. Hitting leadoff. For the second time in his career.
The Giants are being outscored 75-19 in the first inning this season and batting a paltry .222 in the frame. Belt — with the best on-base numbers of a bad bunch — could at least be a temporary solution to a vexing problem.
The last time Belt led off to start was last season, when he went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts on Aug. 19 against the Cincinnati Reds. The move didn’t come from the mind of an analytics-obsessed numbers jockey, either. Bochy had been batting the idea around for a few days, and went with his gut. It’s not like San Francisco can get much worse up top.
Giants leadoff men are hitting just .237 on the season with a .300 on-base percentage (.300) lower than the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the lineup (San Francisco’s No. 2 hitters have an OBP of .275).
Belt may be hitting .229 but with a career on-base percentage of .356 and a season mark of .359, he has a higher career OBP than every Giants regular save for Buster Posey, who has an OBP of .299 this year, and leads the current team in the category. He’s also one off the team pace for home runs, with nine.
“Hopefully, he gets on base,” Bochy said. “He’s a good on-base guy, but also, he’s a power threat. Helps get the offense going. I think it’s fair to say that offensively, we’ve had our struggles, and sometimes, you change things to see if you can get out of that rut, especially here at home. We’ve got a lot of games where we’ve scored two runs or less.”
The Giants have scored two or fewer runs in 28 games this season — the third-most in the Majors, behind the moribund Miami Marlins (37) and the Toronto Blue Jays (31). Not surprisingly, San Francisco is 3-25 in those games. In 11 of those games, though, Giants pitchers have allowed three or fewer runs. That should be enough to win.
“We’d like to change that the rest of the way,” Bochy said.
With Belt on base, maybe something shakes loose, though it doesn’t seem like a long-term fix. The issue still remains that opposing teams are raking the Giants over the coals in the first inning, batting .318 with a .392 OBP, a .660 slugging percentage and 28 home runs during that frame.
While Belt is hitting leadoff, Posey is still hitting third, where he’s started 30 times this season, despite hitting a career-worst .239.
Before heading to the disabled list with a concussion, Posey was starting to pull out of his yearlong funk, going 6-for-17 (.353) with six runs scored, a pair of doubles, a home run and five walks to only two strikeouts in six games. Since he’s returned, he’s gone 5-for-32 with one extra-base hit in eight games.
“Sure, you look at the numbers and go, ‘Well, why is he hitting there?’” Bochy said. “As a club, we’re not swinging the bat very well. Let’s be honest here. Hitting — what, .220? — so it’s not like we have a lot of guys who fit that mold. But, his presence, I can guarantee, is still there when other teams go against us, and right now, he’s a guy we’re going to stay behind and think it’s a matter of time before he gets on track.”
The Giants held an extra, 40-minute infield session prior to Tuesday’s game, centered around pitchers’ fielding practice, a sight not often seen outside of spring training. Bochy said there wasn’t a precipitating incident in any recent game.
“Just refreshing them on some stuff,” Bochy said. “They don’t get a lot of throwing to the bases, especially relievers. Try to do this four to five times a year, and we meant to do it last homestand, but a couple things came up and we couldn’t. You cover signs, need to refresh their memory occasionally, especially when they haven’t done a play in two or three months.”
Anything to change up the pregame routine, and maybe shake San Francisco away after a 2-0 loss to Colorado on Monday.